I remember this one winter – snow as high as a barn door, cold enough to freeze the whiskers off a cat. I looked towards the coop, half expecting to see my chickens turning into feathered icicles. But there they were, scratching and pecking, just as happy as a pig in mud.
And do you know why? It’s because I had chosen the right cold, hardy chicken breeds that laugh in the face of Old Man Winter.
Those hearty breeds can take a snowstorm in stride and keep laying those breakfast eggs for you.
Is chicken good for cold weather?
While chickens are generally resilient, the extent of their ability to withstand cold varies. Cold hardy breeds like the Sussex, Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Reds, and the fluffy Orpington are excellent choices for winter. Combined with appropriate winter care, these breeds can weather the challenges of the cold season.
Remember, not all chickens are created equal when it comes to braving the winter cold. Chickens, by nature, are quite hardy creatures, and many breeds adapt well to various climates. But there are many things you still need to know about keeping chickens warm in winter.
They have a built-in layer of downy feathers to keep them warm and huddle together for shared body heat. However, severe colds can be hard on them if they’re not the right breed or aren’t properly cared for.
Table of Content For Best Cold Weather Chickens
- 11 Best Cold Weather Chickens to Raise in Winter
- 1. Sussex: Feathered Chicken for Harsh Winters
- 2. Plymouth Rock (Barred Rock): Cold Weather Chicken That Lays Eggs
- 3. Rhode Island Reds: Robust Winter Champions
- 4. Orpington Chickens: Best Chickens For Cold Weather
- 5. Australorp: Cold Hardy Chickens With Layers of Feathers
- 6. Wyandotte Chickens: Frostbite Resistant Breed
- 7. Chantecler Chicken Breed: Best Chickens in Winter
- 8. Ameraucanas: Chickens For Winter Season
- 9. Olive Eggers: Cold Hardy Breeds For Chilly Weather
- 10. Easter Eggers Chicken Breed: More Resistant to Cold
- 11. Brahma Chickens: King of Chickens During Winter
- Best Cold Hardy Meat Chicken Breeds
- Best Cold Weather Dual Purpose Chickens
Let’s learn more about the best cold weather chickens you can raise.
11 Best Cold Weather Chickens to Raise in Winter
Many chicken breeds for extreme cold do well in the winter and freezing temperatures. But, if you live in an especially cold area that gets below 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, then you will either need more hardy chickens or you will need to take extra precautions during the winter months.
Specific breeds of chickens do best in cold weather. Generally speaking, darker chickens with heavier feathers and smaller wattles and combs do the best in colder climates.
What is the best cold weather chicken?
The Chantecler is probably the most cold tolerant chicken breed for the extreme winter season. It was bred in Northern Canada and has almost no wattles or combs to be vulnerable to frostbite.
Find out more about winter chickens below:
1. Sussex: Feathered Chicken for Harsh Winters
Sussex chickens are a go-to for many farmers due to their exceptional tolerance to cold. Their dense feathers provide great insulation, and their high productivity persists even during the coldest months.
Sussex breed is known for its thick and dense layer of feathers, which is excellent insulation against the cold. A bonus is their consistent egg-laying ability, even during harsh winters.
2. Plymouth Rock (Barred Rock): Cold Weather Chicken That Lays Eggs
Plymouth Rock chickens are hardy birds that adapt well to cold climates, thanks to their good feather coverage and a strong constitution. They’re also reliable layers through the winter months.
Plymouth chickens are medium to large in size with long, broad backs and deep breasts.
They’re well-known for their black and white ‘barred’ feathers, although other color variations do exist.
3. Rhode Island Reds: Robust Winter Champions
Rhode Island Reds’ robust nature and rich, thick feathers make them an excellent choice for colder weather.
Their productivity doesn’t falter in winter, continuing to provide a regular supply of eggs.
Rhode Island Reds are medium-sized chickens with a rectangular body shape, deep chest, and broad back. They’re known for their rich, dark red feathers, and they have yellow eyes and reddish-brown beaks.
4. Orpington Chickens: Best Chickens For Cold Weather
The Orpington chicken breed is highly regarded for its substantial fluffy plumage, providing a natural buffer against the chill. Their calm and docile temperament also helps reduce stress-related effects during the cold season.
Orpingtons are large chickens with heavy, broad bodies and low stances. They have a profuse, soft feathering that often makes them appear even larger.
Their color range includes black, blue, buff, and white.
5. Australorp: Cold Hardy Chickens With Layers of Feathers
Australorps are indeed cold hardy. They have a heavy layer of feathers, providing excellent insulation during the chilly months.
Australorps stand out with their large size and thick plumage, providing good insulation against cold weather. Their reliable egg-laying rate during winter also adds to their appeal.
6. Wyandotte Chickens: Frostbite Resistant Breed
Wyandottes have a rose comb, which is more resistant to frostbite than the traditional single comb, and a thick layer of feathers. This combination makes them a great choice for colder climates.
Wyandottes are medium-sized birds with a round, compact body shape. They’re known for their broad feather patterns and come in various colors.
Their distinctive rose comb sets them apart from many other chicken breeds for small backyards and city living.
7. Chantecler Chicken Breed: Best Chickens in Winter
Chantecler chickens were specifically developed for Canadian winters. They have small combs and wattles to reduce the risk of frostbite in chickens, and their thick plumage provides excellent insulation against the cold.
Chanteclers are medium to large chickens with compact bodies, deep chests, and broad backs.
They have small combs and wattles, making them unique among other breeds. Their feather color can be white or partridge.
8. Ameraucanas: Chickens For Winter Season
Ameraucanas are quite a cold hardy. They have a full layer of feathers and a pea comb that is less prone to frostbite, making them suitable for cooler climates.
Ameraucanas are medium-sized chickens known for their distinctive blue eggs. They have a ‘beard’ of feathers under the neck, which gives them a puffy-cheeked appearance and a pea comb.
9. Olive Eggers: Cold Hardy Breeds For Chilly Weather
Olive Eggers tend to be cold hardy as they are often a cross of cold-hardy breeds such as Ameraucanas, Marans, or Welsummers.
Olive Eggers’ appearance can vary greatly as a hybrid breed, but they’re generally medium-sized with full plumage. Their name comes from the olive-green eggs they lay, a trait they inherit from their parent breeds.
10. Easter Eggers Chicken Breed: More Resistant to Cold
Easter Eggers generally do well in the cold. They often have pea combs, which are more resistant to frostbite, and they have a good layer of feathers for insulation.
Similar to Olive Eggers, Easter Eggers are a hybrid breed and can come in various shapes, sizes, and colors.
The most defining characteristic of Easter Eggers is their ability to lay eggs in a variety of colors, from blue to green and even pink.
11. Brahma Chickens: King of Chickens During Winter
Brahma chickens have distinctive feathered legs and feet, further enhancing their cold resistance. They have a pea comb and small wattles, reducing their susceptibility to frostbite.
Their plumage comes in various colors, including light, dark, and buff. Brahma chickens are known for their docile and gentle temperament despite their grand size.
Best Cold Hardy Meat Chicken Breeds
Many of today’s meat chickens are cold hardy hybrid chickens that are bred to be super growers. As a result, those breeds generally don’t do well for long-term sustainability. They are usually purchased in the spring, raised, and butchered in the summer. They are bred for mild summer months.
But, many heritage breeds do well in cold weather. These breeds are slower-growing and traditionally used for meat and eggs. They are listed under the dual-purpose section.
The best meat breed for cold weather is:
- Dorking: 9 lbs, 140 eggs a year
Best Cold Weather Dual Purpose Chickens
Not all chickens can brave the biting cold; however, some are indeed winter warriors, excelling in both egg-laying and meat production even in harsh climates.
Let’s delve into the realm of the best cold-climate dual-purpose chickens.
|Chicken Breed||Average Weight (lbs)||Average Annual Egg Production|
|New Hampshire Red||9||200|
|Rhode Island Red||8.5||200|
Best Cold Weather Chickens FAQs
Do I need to keep my chickens warm in winter? While chickens are naturally equipped to handle cold weather, providing them with a well-insulated, draft-free, and dry coop will help ensure their comfort and health.
However, artificial heating like a heat lamp is generally not recommended for chickens as it can create dependency and pose a fire risk.
Can chickens go outside in cold weather? Yes, chickens can go outside in cold weather. They are surprisingly resilient.
If the breed is cold-hardy and acclimated to the local weather, they should be able to forage and roam outside even in winter. However, ensure they always have access to shelter from wind and snow.
Will eggs hatch in cold weather? Eggs can hatch in cold weather if they’re properly incubated. Chickens naturally provide the necessary warmth.
However, once hatched, chicks are vulnerable to cold and require a warm, dry environment to survive.
Can roosters survive the cold? Yes, roosters can survive the cold just as well as hens, provided they belong to a cold-hardy breed and are in good health.
Keep an eye on their combs and wattles, as these exposed parts are susceptible to frostbite. A well-insulated and wind-proof roosting area is essential for their comfort and safety during the cold months.
My Favorite Chicken and Duck Supplies
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Manna Pro Oyster Shell keeps eggs strong. Before I gave my chickens oyster shell, I had the oddest eggs, many with weak and irregular shells. Now, I don’t have an issue.
Layer Feed by Manna Pro. I like pellets rather than crumbles as my chickens eat them better and less gets wasted or scavenged by rodents. A good layer feed makes the difference in hens laying many more eggs.
My chickens love this mealworm treat, which gives added protein, something that’s great during molting and winter months.
There are many ways to feed and water your chickens. I like this food and water setup the best because it reduces waste, saves me time feeding and watering, and keeps the food fresh longer. Except, in the winter, I use a heated waterer. The only problem is the heated waterers need to be replaced every few years.
I love this chicken veggie hanger. It makes it easy to give your chickens produce from the garden and keep them occupied in the winter with a fresh head of lettuce.
These chicken toys are a hoot! They will help curb bullying and keep your chickens active, especially in the winter when hens tend to get more lethargic.
The ability of chickens to withstand cold weather largely depends on their breed, care, and environment. The best cold weather chickens can thrive in winter, offering egg or meat productivity despite the frosty weather.
However, appropriate winter care remains essential, including a warm coop, access to fresh water and keeping chicken water from freezing, and nutritious food.
Remember, with the right selection and care, your chickens can remain productive and healthy even in the coldest of winters. Keep these insights in mind as you navigate the rewarding journey of winter chicken farming.